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Jeff Roberson, Associated Press
University of Missouri head football coach Gary Pinkel pauses while speaking about his players during a news conference Monday, Nov. 16, 2015, in Columbia, Mo. Pinkel has announced he will resign following the 2015 season after being diagnosed with lymphoma in May.

COLUMBIA, Mo. — Longtime Missouri coach Gary Pinkel fought back tears Monday as he said he will miss his players the most when he resigns at the end of the season.

A couple hundred people were at Missouri's basketball arena to hear from Pinkel, who announces his plans to step down last week and disclosed that he is battling lymphoma. He has been at Missouri for 15 seasons.

Among those in the audience was Michael Sam, who starred at Missouri before becoming the first openly gay player to be drafted by an NFL team. Pinkel says he told all of his players that they have his phone number for life.

Athletic director Mack Rhoades said the 63-year-old Pinkel won't be involved in the search for a successor.